MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would create a new open crossbow season to run concurrently with the archery deer season.
The measure now heads back to the Assembly, which passed a nearly identical bill unanimously in June.
Currently, crossbow hunting is allowed only for those over age 65 and those with physical disabilities. The bill would allow hunters of all legal ages and physical abilities to use crossbows to hunt deer and other smaller animals including rabbits and coyotes.
The crossbow season would be the same as the archery deer season, which runs from mid-September until the end of November or beginning of December, depending on the year. After two years, the Department of Natural Resources could change the dates of the season.
Supporters of the measure said it would expand opportunities and interest in hunting, provide an economic boost to the hunting industry and remove hurdles disabled people face in trying to get a required physical examination.
Creating the new crossbow season ran into some opposition from traditional bow-and-arrow hunters who worried that allowing a crossbow, which operates more like a rifle with the hunter pulling a trigger to release the arrow, would taint archery hunting.
Democratic Sen. Mark Miller, of Madison, cast the only vote against the bill. As a traditional bow hunter, he said he would have preferred that at least a portion of that season remain with no crossbows allowed.
"A crossbow is different from a regular bow," Miller said. "It's more like a shotgun."
Also on Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would prohibit local governments from restricting bow and crossbow hunting except within 100 yards of a building on government land.
Current law prohibits local governments from restricting hunting, fishing and trapping unless public health and safety is endangered. The bill expands that prohibition to include bow and crossbow hunting.
There is also a prohibition on any type of hunting within 1,700 feet of a hospital, school or mental hospital.
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